Winds travelling up to 120 knots whipped at the coastline as Hurricane Irene made landfall five years ago today.

There were seven deaths recorded in the surrounding counties as the storm made its way toward land, and the storm caused an estimated $15.6 billion dollars in property damage in the United States, making it the seventh costliest Atlantic hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Mike Stanley, the owner of Bogue Inlet Pier said Hurricane Irene was the third storm after which he’s had to rebuild. Hurricane Irene ripped 240 feet from the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle while destroying multiple roads, docks and power lines along the North Carolina coast.

“All of the piers were devastated after Irene. Oceanana Pier (in Atlantic Beach) had considerable damage,” Stanley said. “You kind of expect it to happen, so you save a little bit of money every year.

“We know the next storm could be the one that could take everything.”

The day Hurricane Irene made landfall at Cape Lookout, the Category 1 winds were producing several tornadoes along the coast and waves up to 9 feet, according to the Associated Press.  

Just north of Emerald Isle, storm winds funneled sea water into the Pamlico Sound and river tributaries, and as the storm passed northward, that water rushed back into the towns of Waves, Rodanthe and Salvo causing historic flooding in those Outer Banks areas.

“When you see the damage the next day it’s hard. You just take a deep breath and say ‘Let’s get on with it’,” Stanley said on Friday afternoon. “We don’t insure (the pier), we’re sort of self-insured. That’s probably the reason we’re still around; we keep construction costs in house.”

According to Stanley, their family has to rebuild some portion of the pier about every 15 years.

The most damaging storm to piers on the North Carolina coast has been Hurricane Fran in 1996, Stanley said.

Before 1996, there were an estimated nine piers in the local Piers Owner Association — now only Bogue Inlet and Oceanana Pier still stand along Bogue Banks.

“The pier is much better built now; the latest engineer design is really wonderful,” Stanley said. “Before Irene we were using rebar pins that would etch away with the salt water. Now we use galvanized pins and curb spikes grids, which look like a waffle plate with spikes, so they’ll last longer against the saltwater.”

The highest winds officially recorded reached 67 miles per hour by a buoy near Cape Lookout, according to Weather Underground. The combination of strong wind and waves cause immense stress to piers and structures on the water.

“The waves make the pier flex and twist or else it will tumble into the ocean,” he said.

In addition to the new hardware, Stanley said the rebuilt pier features larger timbers and a slightly different design that is simpler and still flexible.

“You can’t fool Mother Nature,” Stanley said. “We respect the ocean’s power and try to stay prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.”